It was the “kaboom” moment of this election season. Congressman Tim Ryan, former congressman and now convicted felon James A. Traficant Jr., and health care professional Jim Graham were in a debate Monday night when Traficant decided to go for the jugular. He picked the wrong target.
The ex-con, narrow tie and all, accused Ryan of being ineffective as the 17th District’s representative, saying he hadn’t brought much business to the Mahoning Valley.
The man who succeeded Traficant in Congress wasted little time in lashing back.
“How do you expect a business to move to this community if you got 80 judges and lawyers all the way up the political food chain who are in prison?” he quipped. “And then you come and you turn around and say ‘You haven’t fixed the community fast enough?’ Give me a break.”
“Kaboom” — as in the bathroom cleaner that’s guaranteed to remove scum.
It is telling that the Democratic congressman, who is competing his eighth year in office, had once worked for Traficant as an intern.
Traficant, expelled from the House of Representatives after he was convicted of 10 federal criminal charges, including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, appears to have lost his political instincts while in the federal penitentiary for seven years and one month.
The ex-con is many things — corrupt, intellectually dishonest, ego maniacal — but he isn’t stupid. So, what’s he up to? He knows he won’t win the election and he also knows that the Indian casino idea he trotted out again last week is a fairy tale.
It could be part of his grand design to secure a huge pay day.
There are whispers that Traficant wants to sell his life story to some movie maker and would like the Valley’s own Ed O’Neill — he of “Married … With Children” and “Modern Family” fame — to play him.
And what does the former congressman-turned-felon want for his story? A whopping $2 million is one figure that has been tossed around.
Of course, this could all be a vicious rumor spread by his enemies to undermine his candidacy.
Then again, consider the latest Jimboism:
Prior to his appearance at Thursday’s meeting of the Mahoning County commissioners at which he asked for their support of the Indian casino project, Traficant supposedly met with a local Democratic Party hack to tout the project.
During the conversation, the former Democratic congressman talked about going before county commissioners Anthony Traficanti, David Ludt and John McNally.
He then issued this threat: If the commissioners do anything to undermine his plans, he, Traficant, will publicly endorse Republican John Kasich for governor.
(Slash, slash — that’s the sound of Kasich cutting his wrists.)
Kasich, who is challenging Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, can do without an embrace from a disgraced member of Congress.
In fact, Kasich may be wondering if there’s a grand conspiracy in the Valley against him, given the fall out from his being endorsed by Tom Humphries, chief executive officer of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber.
It wasn’t Humphries’ coming out for Kasich that has infuriated local and state Democrats and others, but his reason for doing so: A company he owns failed to get a state contract and so he’s angry with Gov. Strickland.
The chamber head is now under fire and his action prompts this question: If Kasich wins, will Humphries’ company end up with a state contract (paid for the taxpayers)?
Tom Humphries’ identity is inextricably tied to the chamber. If he wasn’t the CEO of the organization, he would be just another businessman.
Thus, his endorsement has the potential of opening the floodgates to resignations from the chamber of prominent members. Youngstown businessman Bruce Zoldan, who has strong political ties to state and national officeholders, has quit.
Kasich can’t afford such controversy in the predominantly Democratic region.
And he certainly can’t afford an endorsement from Jim Traficant.